Local Ukrainian families affected by Russian invasion, plus the history leading up to attack on Ukraine

KENNEWICK, WA – Russia launched a full invasion on Ukraine landing in the port city of Odesa and crossing the eastern border into Kharkiv. Russian troops also moved toward Kyiv. Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 137 people have been killed and 316 were wounded. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Tri-Cities community is desperate to know if their families are okay.

One of those families is the Prishchenko family.

“I can’t support a country that invades another country for no reason,” said Zhenya Prishchenko.

Zhenya and his wife Stasia were born, raised, and married in Ukraine. They remember their life in Ukraine as a good one, with loving and happy memories.

“We used to have this summer cottage in the rural part of the country. That’s where I spent most of my summers,” said Zhenya. “Ukraine is where I had some of my best memories.”

“In Ukraine, there was a time that I felt free and happy,” said Stasia.

But everything changed as the Russian and Ukrainian conflict worsened.

Ukrainians piled into trains and cars to flee out of Kyiv. NATO responded by strengthening sanctions against Russia.

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said this invasion was necessary to protect eastern Ukrainians, an area where Ukrainians and separatists supported by the Russians have been fighting for almost 8 years.

In an address before the attack, Putin threatened that if any country interfered with Ukraine it “would lead to consequences you have never seen in history.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry reported that the Russian military destroyed 74 Ukrainian military facilities including 11 airbases.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reportedly appealed to Putin for a more diplomatic path. However, afterward, Zelenskyy issued a video statement declaring martial law.

World leaders’ sentiments express that this could cause massive casualties, ruin Ukraine’s democracy, and threaten the post-Cold War peace.

In the hours after the first invasion, world stock markets have plummeted while oil prices increase exponentially.

Both Russia and Ukraine are major producers not only of energy products but also grains and various other necessary commodities. War could negatively affect global supplies in addition to sanctions enforced by the United States and other allies.

Russia and Ukraine’s relationship dates back to the 9th century. Kyiv, currently Ukraine’s capital, was the epicenter of the Slavic state and Kyivan Rus, the birthplace of both Ukraine and Russia. Vladimir Putin once said, “Russians and Ukrainians are one people, a single whole.”

“That is very offensive. We are not Russians. We are Ukrainians and we are not a single whole,” said Zhenya.

Over the next several centuries, Russia and Ukraine were always at war.

Ukraine suffered some of its most recent horrors during the 20th century, after World War II. Ukraine tried to fight a civil war, revolting against the communist revolution, but soon fell under the communist Soviet Union regime in 1922. History shows that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin orchestrated poverty, famine, and propaganda that caused the death and starvation of millions of Ukrainians. Afterward, Stalin brought in hundreds of Russians to repopulate Eastern Ukraine – many of whom did not speak Ukraine.

“Those who romanticize Ukraine under Soviet rule don’t know any better because that’s all they knew. My parents grew up during that time and it made people small-minded, oppressed, and impoverished,” said Zhenya.

Eastern Ukraine and western Ukraine can have different tendencies, in accent, dialect, and Ukrainian pride.

“You could say that since eastern Ukraine had been under Russian rule a lot longer, that sometimes some people there are pro-Russia and the Soviet Union,” said Zhenya, “The west tends to be more pro-western ideologies and pro-free Ukraine. But overall, the Ukrainian people want their sovereignty.

The east has more Russian-speaking Ukrainians and Russians.

In the west, more people speak Ukrainian and are Catholic.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine became an independent nation; but the process was chaotic. Some Ukrainians in the east longed for the earlier Soviet Union days. “The sense of Ukrainian nationalism is not as deep in the east as it is in the west,” once said former ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer.

The 1990s

Anti-communist protests spread across central and Eastern Europe. Under Soviet rule, the Ukrainian flag was banned; however, protestors would wave the flag anyway.

The Rada, the new Ukrainian parliament formed from the previous Soviet legislature, voted Ukraine an independent country. They also voted for the shutdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which had the world’s largest nuclear spill.

After a failed coup in Moscow, the Ukrainian parliament declared independence a seconed time on August 24, now recognized as the official Independence Day for Ukraine.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine was left with the world’s third-largest nuclear stockpile. In the Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine agrees to trade its intercontinental ballistic missiles, warheads, and other nuclear infrastructure in exchange for guarantees that the U.S., U.K., and Russia sign the treaty that they will “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”

The 2000s

While things seemed to be peaceful, in 2004, a pro-Russian candidate was declared president. Protests erupted (known as the Orange Revolution) after claims of vote-rigging. Democracy was restored once pro-Western Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko was named.

In 2005, after being mysteriously poisoned, Yushchenko becomes president and Yulia Tymoshenko is the prime minister

Ukraine advocated to be a part of NATO numerous times, but other countries like France and Germany were hesitant. To this day, they are still not a part of NATO.

In 2009, Gazprom, the state-owned Russian Gas Company stopped pumping gas to Ukraine, following months of fighting over gas prices. This was a hard hit to Europe as most of Europe relies on Ukrainian pipelines for gas. Tymoshenko reaches a negotiation with Putin, and gas resumes to be pumped on January 20th.

Viktor Yanukovich, pro-Russian president and the same man who was first elected in the rigged election in 2004, was elected again in 2010. He suspended trade with the EU and reconnected ties with Moscow.

In 2014, violent protests erupted in Kyiv. Dozens were killed – in just one week than 100 people dead. Yanukovich fled to Russia after a change of leadership and after his scheduled impeachment.

Armed Russians seized Crimea a few days later followed by Putin’s annexation of the territory. This occurred in 2014.

“It was after this that things began to get a lot worse,” said Zhenya and Stasia.

Stasia came to the United States. Zhenya followed a few months after.

Since then, separatists (who support Russia) and Ukrainings desiring full autonomy, have been at arms, especially in Donbas.

In September 2014, representatives from Russia, Ukraine, France, Germany, and Poland meet in Belarus to negotiate an end to violence in Donbas. The cease-fire is signed but is soon broken. Since then, tens of thousands of people have been killed in Donbas and a million more displaced.

In 2017, as the fighting in Donbas continues, Russia strikes Ukraine with several cyberattacks, including the National Bank of Ukraine and the Country’s electrical grid.

In 2019, comedian and actor Volodymyr Zelenskyy is elected president as he vows to end violence in Donbas and make peace with Russia. However, President Donald Trump, who blocked U.S. military aid to Ukraine, suggested to Zelenskyy that he should work with Putin.

In a phone call with Trump in July 2019, Zelenskyy asked if he could visit the White House to receive Trump’s support to ward off Russia. It is at this time that Trump asks Zelenskyy for “a favor,” which would be an investigation into the energy company Burisma and the Biden family. After a White House whistleblower shares the information, it leads to Trump’s first impeachment in December 2019.

In January 2021, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked Biden to make Ukraine part of the NATO alliance. In response, Russian troops began moving towards Ukrainian borders. Biden warned Russia of sweeping economic sanctions in December if they kept this up.

Since then, Russia continued to be at arms with Ukrainian borders.

In April 2021, Russia sends more than 100,000 troops to the Ukraine border, presumably for a military exercise. Zlenskyy urges NATO to let Ukraine in, Russia says it will withdraw troops but they remain.

The U.S. and the U.K. urged their citizens to leave Ukraine on Feb. 11.

On Feb. 21, Putin formally recognized Donetsk People’s Republic as an independent nation. He orders Russia’s military to deploy troops there.

In response, Biden declares the move “the beginning of a Russian invasion.” The U.S., the U.K., and the European Union enact sanctions targeting Russian banks.

All of this led to this morning’s attack.

“Our family is okay. They are holding strong but of course, we are afraid for them and feel helpless,” said Zhenya and Stasia.

Zhenya and Stasia also said they’ve seen videos from their family and friends in Ukraine who are fleeing Kyiv. Some are in cars and spending the night in train stations. Traffic is backed up.

“A couple of blocks from where my father lives, there was a military facility completely blown up and destroyed,” said Zhenya.

Stasia has not seen her family, her brothers, and sisters, for years.

“I have been wanting to go and visit but can’t because of all that has been happening,” said Stasia.

Stasia also said that she knows people sleeping in bunkers now.

“They are digging up the old bomb shelter during the Soviet Rule. Mainly for the kid’s safety. Everyone is worried about the future of Ukraine.” said Zhenya.

Even though they feel helpless as their beloved country and family are under siege, the Prishchenko family are praying for a miracle while holding tight to their culture.

“We love to keep our culture’s food, customs, hospitality, and love alive. We are proud to be Ukrainian,” said Stasia.

Other Tri-Cities Ukrainians share their statements about Ukraine:

“I cry every time I think about my poor Ukraine,” said Svetlana Sweet.

“I have a sister and her family (a husband with 9 kids ) living in the capital of Ukraine and I talked to them yesterday. They said they heard a few explosions go off about 10 miles away from them. And seen smoke from far but it’s gotten worse since then. Thank God they are still okay and we pray that God protects them! Our only hope is in God for His protection.” said Natalie Konko.

“My family in Kyiv woke up early this morning from loud noises. Their windows were shaking. They checked the news and found out that Russia started a war. I and my family are Jehovah’s witnesses, and usually, we read a daily text from the bible. Today the scripture was “Your strength will be in keeping calm and showing trust.”​—Isa. 30:15. It helped them to stay sane during all the craziness around. A lot of people decided to leave the country. But the majority decided to stay at home. My parents decided to try to leave Ukraine. They are currently driving to Lviv when we last spoke not long ago. The traffic was very bad and most of the gas stations had a huge line or were closed. On their way to the border, I learned that because Marshall Law that was announced the Ukrainian border stopped letting men 18-60 out of the country. My dad is 59 and my brother is 34, so I don’t think they will be able to go to our friends in Poland, as they originally planned. They were able to visit Tri-city recently, they flew back to Kyiv in the middle of January even though we offered for them to stay with us until we knew what Russia was going to do. They didn’t believe this war could happen.” said Kate Sanchez.

“Please call your representatives or help out a Ukrainian family you might know,” said Stasia and Zhenya.

You can help in other ways as well. The National Bank of Ukraine has opened a special account to raise funds for the Ukrainian Army. The account is multi-currency.

For donations in USD:




Account: 400807238

383 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10179, USA

Bank account: UA843000010000000047330992708

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Article Source: Fox 11